Not all bookshelves are made the same and they don’t all serve the same purpose. Wondering how to style your shelving situation to showcase more than just the books that you love? Discover our shelf décor ideas to suit ten different types of bookshelves, where each idea is tailored to working with the quirks and character of your specific shelf type. Keep reading and we’ll teach you the styling tips and tricks to help you transform your space.
A bookshelf that’s timeless and reliable, the standard bookshelf is a staple in many homes thanks to its simple design. Their rectangular and symmetrical shape mean that they’re a universal fit for many types of interior décor style and in every room of your house. They’re also one of the more sturdier bookshelf options. Here are a few standard shelf décor ideas to try:
Juxtapose a variety of different sized items The equally spaced shelves make it easy for this bookshelf to look overly uniform. Avoid that by filling your shelves with items that range in size and height. Place contrasting sized items together to add variety and visual intrigue. It will make the individual pieces stand out as well as adding style to the overall look and feel of your bookshelf.
Stick to odd numbers Similarly to the above, this décor idea helps prevent your decorate pieces looking too ordered. Stick with an odd number of items on each shelf to avoid creating too much symmetry. Place a stack of books on the left side of a shelf, a vase of flowers in the centre and use an ornament on the right side.
Use duplicate items to add effect While we don’t overly advise the symmetrical look, we do think that using a few duplicate items grouped together can add a stylish affect. Sticking to the odd number rule we mentioned above, use a pair of matching candlesticks to form a single composite item as one of your three pieces per shelf.
Modular Bookshelf Décor Ideas
Modular bookshelves are square or rectangular-shaped blocks that are designed to interlock and tessellate together. Thanks to their shape, they can be used as building blocks to create a freestanding bookshelf to fit any sized room. Get creative and experiment with limitless configurations - stack them on top of each other into a taller unit, vertically to create a low horizontal shelf, or build them upwards and outwards to form a room divider.
Experiment with textures Incorporate a variety of textures in the accessories you choose to add dimension. Play around with natural weaves, solid wood, metal and ceramics.
Stick to a colour palette Modular units often come in natural wood finishes or painted hues. Work to the colour of the bookshelf itself and pick a complementary colour palette for the accessories you add to the shelves for maximum style. Pale shades and neutrals pair well with light wood grains.
Opt for leafy plants As each modular shelf is usually quite narrow, you might not be able to fit taller plants onto each cube section. Fear not, opt for leafy plants instead. Ones with larger or unusual leaf patterns are perfect. Trailing or climbing plants are an excellent choice too as they overhang each cube, artfully falling across your bookshelf.
Cube Bookshelf Décor Ideas
Cube bookshelves are similar to modular shelves, except that they’re made up of equally-sized square shelves that form one larger cubic shape. While the inner square shelves all share the same dimensions, the overall structure of the bookcase doesn’t necessarily have to be square. Cube bookshelves may feature a single row of stacked squares on top of each other horizontally or vertically for a streamlined design.
These structures can be used in a wide variety of ways all around your home. Use horizontally in your hallway as a shoe storage cubby, fill with produce in your pantry or use as a TV stand in your living room.
Baskets and boxes As many cube bookshelves have a very similar dimension, baskets and boxes made to fit them aren’t difficult to find and are excellent at hiding items that you want out of sight. You can find storage baskets and boxes in a selection of colours, materials and finishes to suit your taste. Thanks to this variety, it’s super easy to decorate your cube bookshelf to match your interior.
Keep décor asymmetrical If you have a standard, square cube bookshelf, try to fill each cube with something different. This ensures that the structure doesn’t look plain or boring to look at. You don’t even need to fill each shelf full to the brim, one single ornament, a photo frame or a small stack of books is enough. Empty space isn’t your enemy.
Mix your media Fill cubed shelves with records and books in alternating segments, giving interest and colour to each segment. You can even display your favourite album or book in its own cube, facing outward.
Ladder Bookshelf Décor Ideas
Ladder bookshelves have risen in popularity over the past few years thanks to their contemporary look. Many ladder shelves don’t require fastening to a wall, which makes them a firm favourite for renters or homeowners who are reluctant to make drill holes or marks they can't easily undo. The shelves of ladder bookcases decrease in size as they ascend, giving the illusion that they are leaning or are propped against a wall.
Its sleek design might be stylish and great for smaller spaces, but its drawback is that it doesn’t hold as much as other bookshelves on this list. As some variations don’t need to be fixed to a wall, it’s best to keep these in areas where they won’t get bumped into.
Stick to standalone décor As the higher shelves tend to be quite narrow, you’ll want to opt for a single, standout piece of décor that can be displayed on its own for these rungs. We love to use framed prints or artwork, a vase or ornament or an interesting plant.
A statement storage piece to anchor the shelf The lower shelves are larger and can therefore hold heavier items. Utilise the lowest rung by placing a statement storage box or basket there to anchor your shelf.
A tall plant to add height to the top shelf The top shelf on ladder bookshelves are often exposed, giving you a great opportunity to add some height to your structure - if you can! This may not be an option in rooms with low ceilings. If you do have the space, a tall plant is ideal as it also adds some greenery too. A colourful orchid, cheese plant or snake plant are great options.
Floating Bookshelf Décor Ideas
Floating bookshelves are easy to identify - you can’t see them! They’re usually composed of a thin, narrow strip of wood that’s fixed directly into the wall or connected using brackets. This gives the impression that they are “floating” in the air. With no large, bulky structure, these elegant bookshelves are suited for rooms with little floor space and for those who want their décor to take center stage. Discover our floating shelf décor ideas below.
Lighter items only Floating bookshelves are largely aesthetic, meaning that they won’t be able to take as much weight as other more stable bookshelf units. Due to this, stick to lighter decorative pieces. Small ornaments and plants are best. It’s also a good spot to pop a tealight inside a tealight holder as there’s no shelf above to obstruct the flame.
Best for books Floating bookshelves are also a stylish way to show off your book collection, if it’s not too big. Comic books or magazines work brilliantly as well.
Or dedicate to one type of décor item Not everyone reads, so if you don’t have a small selection of books to display, opt for a collection of something else instead. Figurines, medals or trophies, framed photographs or even your perfumes or make up collection.
Corner Bookshelf Décor Ideas
Corner bookshelves are triangular-shaped structures designed to fit in the corners of your room, making use of otherwise empty space. You can find freestanding corner bookshelf units, or if you want to maximise even more space, wall-fixed corner shelves are also available. These bookshelves are a brilliant way to enhance the look and feel of a room without taking away from other standout pieces of furniture.
Best for fragile items or artwork As corner bookshelves sit in often unoccupied areas of a room, it makes them ideal for storing delicate items that you don’t want to knock or disturb. These could be glass and porcelain decorations, or large canvas prints and artwork.
Keep candles on the top Many corner bookshelves decrease in shelf size as they ascend, making the top shelf the perfect size for a candle or lighting feature. Pop a hurricane candle holder on the highest shelf to instantly illuminate those dimly-lit corners and add a gentle ambiance to your home.
Create a plant stand Why not transform your bookshelf into a tiered plant stand? Inject some greenery into your indoor spaces by adorning the shelves with a variety of plants. Devil’s Ivy, Bromeliads and Peace Lilies are low maintenance household plants and shade tolerant, making them a great fit for darker corners.
Industrial Bookshelf Décor Ideas
Whereas many traditional bookshelves are built from wood and timber, industrial bookshelves are created from metal to mimic the look and feel of factory equipment. These industrial pieces of furniture are often bold and angular, with angle joints or plumbing style fittings. These structures add a standout look to any space and are great paired in rooms with exposed brickwork. Made from hard wearing metal, these bookshelves are sturdy and strong - ideal for holding heavier items.
Larger statement items As the bookshelf frame is already eye catching and bold, avoid overcrowding the shelves with lots of small or layered items. Instead, opt for a larger, standalone piece to prevent your display from being too overwhelming.
Keep things neutral As a more decorative structure, avoid overpowering it by using bright and bold colours. Choose darker hues or neutral tones to avoid clashing your décor against the metallic stand.
A sense of symmetry Simple is better when it comes to industrial bookshelves. Space out your items in a symmetrical formation to avoid creating a sense of chaos and a messy feel amongst the harsher metal frame. Let the shelves speak for themselves.
Low Bookshelf Décor Ideas
Low bookshelves, as the name suggests, sit low to the ground, making anything you store inside of them at an easy access level. These bookshelves are often fairly wide to make up for their lack of height, making them brilliant to keep under window sills and utilise the space there. If yours is sturdy enough, top it off with cushions and other soft furnishings to turn it into a cosy reading nook.
Best suited for books Since these structures sit so close to the ground, they’re much better suited for practical items rather than decorative pieces - otherwise you’ll end up drawing your guest’s eyeline downwards rather than up and around the room. We love to dedicate these low lying pieces of furniture to books. They add a subtle decorative flair whether you read or not.
Change up the placement of your books Lining up your book collection in an ordered row can be super satisfying, but why not play around with the placement of your books to add some allure? Mix up the way you store your reading materials by laying a horizontal stack of magazines amongst the rows of hardbacks.
Or baskets and boxes If your practical items aren’t as easy on the eyes as books, no problem. Use storage baskets or boxes to conceal them. A row of matching storage containers solves your issue neatly and elegantly. Experiment with different textures like weave, felt, paper or wood.
Built-in Bookshelf Décor Ideas
Built-in bookshelves are a practical and neat way to maximise your storage space. They elevate a blank wall to a floor-to-ceiling display solution for organising your prized possessions. Whether your built-in bookshelf covers an entire wall space or a small section of a wall, they offer plenty of flexibility as they can hold almost anything - from books, artwork, ornaments, décor, electronic devices, plants and more.
The best thing about these bookshelves is that they can be placed in any part of your home. Whether it be in your kitchen, hallway, study or dining room, they offer a neutral base that can be filled with whatever you need it to hold.
Space out your items All of the free space in a built-in bookshelf can be tempting, but resist the urge to throw as much stuff in there as you can. Be selective about the things you place on each shelf and don’t be afraid to space out your items. This prevents your display from looking too cluttered or messy.
Work in pairs If you’re struggling to space out your items in an artful way, try working in pairs. Use a pair of an item on each shelf to ensure that you’re not going overboard. Place two framed photos or pieces of artwork beside each other on a shelf, two horizontal stacks of books, two storage baskets or two votive candle holders. Just make sure you don’t do this on every single shelf otherwise it may end up looking overly structured.
Practical items at the bottom, decorative at the top This built-in shelf décor idea is more of a tip we've learnt from experience so you can learn from our mistakes. Keep your practical items on the lower shelves in reaching distance, and dedicate the higher shelves to decorative pieces. You’ll thank yourself for it later when you don’t have to get the step ladder out everytime you want to read a book.
Column Bookshelf Décor Ideas
This lesser known bookshelf type features a tall, narrow design that’s ideal for slotting into narrow nooks and crevices around your living spaces. Not to be confused with a CD rack, these bookshelves are ideal for proudly storing items that you want to draw people’s attention to. These shelves are great in the bedroom as overspill space for your dressing table items. Or, place yours in your dining room to use as a contemporary bottle or wine rack.
One item per shelf Each shelf is the perfect fit for one standout item, allowing it to become a focal piece. Sticking with this one item per shelf rule turns your column bookshelf into a display rack for all your prized and pretty possessions.
Lay books horizontally Some column bookshelves don’t have panels on the sides to enclose the items on each shelf. When this is the case, lay your books horizontally and stack them upwards. Face the spines of your books outwards to show off your favourite reads.
Dedicate to one function Keep your column dedicated to one feature or type of item for maximum impact. Whether you want to use it to store books, your favourite pairs of shoes, your best crockery or even plants, stick with one function to elevate your display.
Looking for décor or accessories to improve the look and feel of your bookshelf? Check out our home fragrance accessories today.